Dr. Bridget Arend, Director of University Teaching at the University of Denver, was the keynote speaker at the Symposium for Teaching and Learning with Technology at the Auraria Campus on Oct. 25. She is also the co-author of Facilitating Seven Ways of Learning, which I got from the library and started reading recently. I probably won’t finish reading it because it focuses so much on theory.
I was interested and heartened to read what Davis and Arend wrote about learning styles:
Learning styles can help teachers understand student differences and adjust their teaching accordingly, but they should not be used as a prescription for how to teach. That is determined, or should be, by the desired learning outcomes for the subject and by the selection of an appropriate way of learning that will best achieve the designated outcome. (25)
Of course, I’ve learned about various learning styles and been encouraged to adjust my teaching accordingly. (I’m a visual learner.) I agree with Davis and Arend that the subject matter and learning outcomes should determine how I teach not the students’ learning styles.
If you’re looking for a manual on how to apply universal design in your college/university classes, don’t bother reading Universal Design in Higher Education (Cambridge, MA: Harvard Education Press, 2008). Chapter authors do a good job of explaining what universal design is, but the book is theoretical rather than practical despite the subtitle: From Principles to Practice. The principles predominate, and there is little on actual practice.
It also focuses more on meeting the needs of students with disabilities over those with varied learning styles, which faculty members are more likely to have in class.
The book has chapters on implementing universal design in instruction, services, information technology, and physical spaces in higher education. There is also a chapter on institutionalizing universal design.